Tommy earns his spurs

Giant youngster: Tommy Glover (right) with Sutherland Sharks goalkeeping coach Ron Tilsed at Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda.
Giant youngster: Tommy Glover (right) with Sutherland Sharks goalkeeping coach Ron Tilsed at Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda.

WHEN he was just 14, exciting Sutherland Sharks goalkeeper, Tommy Glover, so impressed legendary former English keeper, Pat Jennings, that he kept him in England for two months training.

Today, Tommy, just turned 16, has signed a two-year deal with Jennings' English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspurs and the "Spurs" Academy.

The Menai High schoolboy, one of the youngest Australians to play for an EPL club academy, has stood out since starting his career with Sutherland Sharks junior teams in Metro League under 11s, and then Premier League Sharks U13s.

Less than two years ago, Sutherland's goalkeeping coach, Ron Tilsed, the former Arsenal star and former Young England goalkeeper, and John Klapppas, the former Sutherland (now Rockdale) director of coaching, recommended Tommy to Tottenham and he flew over for a trial.

Jennings, the Tottenham goalkeeping director, was excited about Tommy.

"So much so, Jennings quickly moved the Australian youngster up from under 16s with the 'Spurs' Academy," said Tilsed.

With FIFA rules restricting overseas clubs signing youngsters under 16, Jennings negotiated to get Tommy for short stints in England, before offering him a contract when he turned 16.

"For his tender years, I'm amazed he's coped so well in England; it's a fantastic achievement for Tommy," said Tilsed. "He has worked so hard with me in the past four years and he deserves the chance.

"He says the pace of the game in England compared to Australia has really opened his eyes. But because Tommy is so down-to-earth, I'm sure he will grasp his opportunity."

Even the then Australian Socceroos goalkeeper, Mark Schwarzer, sought the youngster out for a talk at a Socceroo training session last year in Sydney.

"Mark had heard about Tommy in England, and wished him all the best for the future at Kogarah Oval training," said Tilsed. "Tommy was quite thrilled with their short meeting.

Announcing the signing on their new website, Sutherland Sharks FC stated: "Tommy Glover is an intimidating sight between the sticks, standing at about six foot five inches, and just 16.

"Tom has put the hard yards in and while losing him is a major blow for the club, it is one that the Sharks take happily, as it's our job to help these dreams come true.

"The Sharks wish him all the best and have no doubt we'll be seeing more of him in the future."

Tilsed has thrown out a challenge to the youngster.

"I have told Tommy I would like to see him the No. 2 goalie for Tottenham by the age of 21."

Other local young goalkeepers have made the news, too:

■Former Sutherland junior goalkeeper Jack Duncan, the Australian under 21 international from Grays Point and another Tilsed-coached player, makes his A-League debut this weekend for Perth Glory, against Wellington Phoenix.

■Former Sutherland under 14s goalkeeper Daniel Nizic, now 19, is playing with Burnley in England.

■Former Rockdale Suns junior Jordan Holmes, 17, is playing for AFC Bournemouth on a two-year fulltime scholarship.

■Sutherland under 20s goalkeeper Andrew Dapta has excelled in Premier League first grade pre-season trials, replacing regular goalie Nathan Denham, who is just returning to training after a bout of glandular fever.